Gerber Life Family Times --- News and tips for familes of all ages and stages of life

'Tis the Season  
For Colds and Flu


'Tis the Season
For Colds and Flu

As the Leaves Fall
Time to Winterize Your Home

Being Crafty with Bits and Pieces

Bacteria Beware

Gerber Life Family Times Archive

sick childNothing can ruin holiday plans more quickly than a family member (or worse yet, the entire family) coming down with a case of the dreaded cold or flu. From the runny nose and nighttime coughing to the cold chills and body aches, colds and influenza are no picnic—regardless of your age. And sadly, getting a cold or the flu once doesn’t mean you’re through with it for the year. In fact, the American Lung Association states that adults experience between two and four colds per year with most occurring between September and May. The outlook for the younger set is even worse with children averaging six to eight colds per year! The repeat battles with the cold virus stems from the fact that colds are highly contagious. They are most commonly spread when droplets of fluid containing the cold virus are transferred by touch or they are inhaled. The Lung Association adds that once the cold virus enters the body, it takes between one and three days for symptoms to start developing. Those symptoms include:

  • Congestion
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Scratchy throat
  • Sneezing
  • A weakened sense of taste and smell

Since there are no antiviral medications available to treat the common cold, a good course of action is the use of over-the-counter medications to help provide temporary relief of the symptoms. In addition, the Lung Association recommends an adequate intake of fluids (eight glasses of water or juice per day) to help keep the lining of the nose and throat from drying out and to keep mucus moist and easy to clear from the nose. Also, in treating a child for a cold or the flu, it is vital to remember that aspirin should not be given to children under the age of eighteen because it has been found to play a role in the development of Reye’s Syndrome—a rare and serious condition affecting the liver and central nervous system. As always, discuss any and all medication choices with your family physician.

Our hectic lives involve so much interaction with other people it seems inevitable that the cold virus will make its way into our lives, one way or another. Just think of the number of doorknobs and handles you touch each day. There are some steps you and your family can take to help prevent the transmission of the cold virus. Among the Lung Association’s recommendations:

  • Avoid contact with people who have a cold, especially during the first few days of their infection when the virus is most likely to be spread.
  • Wash your hands after touching someone who has a cold, after touching an object or surface they have touched, and after blowing your nose.
  • Keep your fingers away from your eyes, nose, and mouth to keep from transferring any cold virus to your body that you may have picked up from touching a surface.
  • If your child has a cold, wash his or her toys after playtime. Remember also that your child may also be playing with the toys of other children and the cold virus may spread to your child via those toys.
  • Place an extra hand towel in the bathroom for healthy people to use.
  • Monitor the humidity of your home and work environment to keep your sinuses from drying out.
  • Most importantly, contain your cold. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, throw the tissue away, and then wash your hands thoroughly (and teach your children to do the same). Also, stay away from people who may be especially vulnerable to catching a cold (the elderly, those with compromised immune systems, etc.)

When it comes to influenza or “the flu”, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the “single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each year.” There are currently two types of vaccine available: the “flu shot” (containing dead virus) and nasal-spray flu vaccine which is approved for use in healthy people between 5 years and 49 years of age who are not pregnant. The CDC states that anyone who wants to reduce the risk of getting the flu can get vaccinated, however it advises that people who are at high risk for developing serious flu complications or those who care for those individuals should get vaccinated each year. Those groups include:

  • Children age 6 months until their 5th birthday
  • Pregnant women
  • People 50 years of age and older
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
  • People who live in nursing homes and other long term care facilities
  • Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu
  • Household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (too young for vaccination)
  • Healthcare workers

The CDC also notes some “good health habits” to help prevent the flu:

  • tissuesAvoid close contact with people who are sick and when you are sick, keep your distance from others to help prevent transmitting the flu virus.
  • If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Then dispose of the tissue and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Clean your hands often to help protect you from germs.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth which can spread any virus you may have picked up on your hands to your body.
  • Get plenty of sleep, manage stress, eat nutritiously, drink plenty of fluids, and get plenty of exercise.

It’s a winter battleground out there with cold and flu bugs flying left and right. With some common sense and the practice of good hygiene habits from you and your children, you just might dodge the sniffling, sneezing, aches, and pains of the next cold and flu season.

As always, consult your primary care physician regarding any decisions on medications and whether a flu vaccination is right for you and/or your family members.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—
American Lung Association—

Articles are provided for the general interest of our readers. Gerber Life Insurance is not responsible for any content and recommends that you consult the appropriate professional with any questions or concerns you may have concerning any financial or health related issues.

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